Seconds out for round two of Leeds retail ruck as White Rose expansion plans revealed

Interesting to read last week about the plans to expand the White Rose retail park in south Leeds.

Developer Land Securities is going to submit a planning application before the end of the year to add a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and cafes, some new shops and bigger and better Debenhams and Primark stores.

All in all they’re looking for permission for an additional 120,000 sq ft of retail space and 65,000 sq ft of leisure space. If it gets approval, the expansion could mean hundreds of new jobs, the developers say.

If it gets approval.

Why shouldn’t it get approval?

Well, regular readers of these pages may recall that just over a year ago there was a heated row going on in the world of Leeds retail about this very topic – the possible future expansion of White Rose.

Unless there’s been some “gentlemen’s agreement” during the past 13 months that’s resolved matters behind closed doors, the row looks set to reignite when Land Securities submit their planning application.

Here’s what caused the bother then – and could well cause bother in the months ahead.

“No case” for additional White Rose development

White Rose masterplan

Back in July 2010 Leeds City Council commissioned consultants Colliers International to write a report on retail in Leeds, looking at current and future capacity and projecting “future retail need”.

A year later the report delivered its conclusions, amongst which was the verdict that there was “no case for supporting additional development at White Rose”.

Land Securities were understandably pretty miffed. So miffed as to make it clear in a letter to Council leader Keith Wakefield that there would be consequences if the report got published.

But the report did get published. (Which is just as well, given that it won’t have come cheap – it’s 150 pages long, with 41 appendices, and was partly based on a specially commissioned household survey). It’s got a section of its very own on the council’s website.

What’s got me baffled now is: given the report’s findings, why do Land Securities believe their forthcoming planning application to expand White Rose stands any chance of success?

Reasons against White Rose expansion

The Westfield hole in Bradford

There were several reasons why Colliers came out against further development at White Rose, among them the negative impact that might be felt by the Eastgate scheme in Leeds,  the stalled Westfield development in Bradford and Trinity Walk in Wakefield, which hadn’t been open long when the report was being written.

The report noted that White Rose was drawing significant trade from adjoining districts like Kirklees, Wakefield, Calderdale and Bradford, and went on (my bold highlighting):

“The household survey indicates the success of the development (White Rose) both commercially and in providing a quality of offer that shoppers seek.

“However, the extent to which this may have discouraged or delayed significant development primarily in the main other cities and towns of the Leeds hinterland but also in Leeds’ own town centres can only now be a matter of speculation.

“Given national guidance and the general strategy within Leeds, however, there is no prima facie planning case either to protect the position of White Rose or to encourage its further development.

“Consequently, the capacity for additional floorspace which the market share approach apportions on first principles to White Rose, would more appropriately, in terms of planning strategy, be apportioned to those centres which historically have served those areas from where White Rose trade is drawn, both within and beyond Leeds…

“The market share of the White Rose has emerged over a relatively short period of time, and over a period when major developments underpinning the strategies of a number of local planning authorities in their development plans have stalled.

“It is clearly appropriate to ensure and await the delivery and consolidation of such schemes, such as Trinity Walk, Wakefield and the Leeds City Centre developments.”

So what, if anything, has changed since the report was written? Anything that might favour   the White Rose case?

Coming in March 2013 – Trinity Leeds

No much on the face of it, apart from the possibility that Trinity Walk in Wakefield may have clawed some trade back from White Rose over the past year.

In Bradford, however, there’s still no sign of a start date to fill in the Westfield “hole”. On the 9th anniversary of planning permission being given, they’re still looking for more stores to commit to the scheme. And it’s difficult to see how a bigger, better White Rose will help that effort. (You may say that that’s none of Leeds business, but a bit of solidarity might not go amiss)

As far as developments in Leeds city centre that may be impacted by an expansion of White Rose, Land Securities’ very own Trinity shopping and leisure development is now set to open on 21 March next year, but rival developer Hammerson’s Eastgate project is still over three years away from “delivery”, let alone “consolidation”.

No “major new developments” before 2016, says rival

Hammerson’s soon-to-come Eastgate development

So, if the report carries any weight with the council a year after its publication, things are not looking too promising for the White Rose plans. Especially if Hammerson feel as strongly about the whole matter as they did a year ago.

When the consultants’ report appeared in draft last year, Hammerson were (surprise!) emphatic in their support of the findings with regard to White Rose.

They wrote to the council too, saying that:

“Hammerson is … extremely concerned that the (consultants’) Study should give no encouragement for further large scale retail schemes in non-central locations and in particular the further expansion of White Rose.

“Given the importance of the Eastgate scheme to Leeds city centre and the wider benefits it would deliver, it is imperative that nothing should prejudice that scheme coming forward.

“The Study and the subsequent planning policy formulation should make this position clear.

Only when both Trinity and Eastgate have been delivered and the City Centre allowed to adjust and consolidate should any major new developments be considered and tested against the relevant planning policy in force at that time.

“This will not be before 2016, and is unlikely to be in out-of-centre locations. Both the Study and future planning policy should be explicit in this regard.”

Now today the rumours have been confirmed that Hammerson have added the Victoria Quarter to their Leeds portfolio (how come we don’t have a local Competition Commission that looks at who controls how much of our city/region?).

The sale prompted this apt comment from The Business Desk Yorkshire‘s editor Ian Briggs:

Seconds out! Round two!



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9 Responses to Seconds out for round two of Leeds retail ruck as White Rose expansion plans revealed

  1. smt says:

    I suspect the reason why Land Securities think they may be in with a chance is because of exactly what they are proposing. Over half the space will be a cinema, there is no cinema planned for Eastgate. The remainder of the retail space will be to extend Debenhams and Primark, neither of which figure in Eastgate. I can’t see Primark opening a store in Eastgate as they already have one bordering the Development site. Debenhams have years left on their Briggate lease.

  2. Hmmm. We’ll see. I think it’s only a third of the new space that’s for leisure/cinema. And 120,000 sq ft of new retail still feels like a sizable addition, whichever brands it’s for. It’s not far off a quarter of the size of the whole of Westfield.

  3. Shopoholic says:

    I’m all for reviving our ailing town and city centres, so on that basis I support the argument against the expansion of the White Rose shopping centre in favour of development in our towns and cities.
    On the other hand, the cost of parking in the city centres is quite ridiculous, so unless the authorities start to address this problem, I’m afraid I’m more likely to go out of town regardless!

  4. freedomnow66 says:

    You asked for a reason!!! Not withstanding the other reasons put forward by smt and shopperholic. According to the recent report by the council them selves there’s going to be a massive expansion or perhaps explosion of residents in the Leeds area alone.. 100,000 projected for the next decade!!! 23,000 homes just in the Leeds area.. 10,000 projected for Wakefield!!! The list goes on!!! I think land securities will play the council at there own game, and use there own report against them!!! Think about it!!! How can the city challenge them!!! If they do how can they look credible when they then force residents to accept building on cherished local land!!

    • Is that the latest population projection? Last one I saw was under 100,000 increase from 2011-2031. But isn’t the issue here about WHERE the council encourages growth in retail? Is it in city centres and local high streets or out-of-town malls?

      All I’m saying is the report they commissioned comes down on the side of the former, and comes out against letting this particular mall grow. So it’ll be interesting to see whether the council stands by the report when the planning application from Land Securities goes in.

      Not sure either that the council has much of a say any more on the question of building on greenfield sites, having tried to stop it and lost out to developers on appeal.

  5. Shopoholic says:

    Such a shame to see such logical arguments that support development of land outside the regions town and city centres. I wonder what the future holds as business rates continue to increase in the town and city centres, rents I hear remain inflexible, parking at a premium? We may end up with heartless conurbations, how do the continental Europeans manage to retain their vibrant centres? Maybe there’s something we can learn from them…..

  6. freedomnow66 says:

    I understand the point of view regarding keeping retail centralized, especially as some town centres have turned into ghost towns of there formerselves ,streets of empty stores peppered with pound stores and charity shops (no offence to either )
    However that doesn’t seem to be the case in Leeds!! Even though economically were in the doldrums,Leeds seems to be doin just fine .As regards population growth, every survey and projected estimate ,that I’ve found all point to a city not far off a million people by 2030 .I know it’s only my opinion and nobody’s wrong here, but companies seem to be investing in Leeds I can’t imagine in the long term if white rose gets the go ahead to build within there own footprint, it will make any difference what’s so ever! A guess we’ll see.

    • Shopoholic says:

      I agree, Leeds city centre looks relatively healthy, although there’s a sprinkling of empty units even in the prime locations such as Bond Street. We’ll see more multiples withdraw as leases expire in order reduce overhead, leaving stores only in key locations, although I hope we’ll see more independents take their place on the high street (as long as it’s affordable for them).
      However, other towns in the locality are not enjoying this level of success.
      I think that this kind of debate is crucial in ensuring that local authorities, developers, landlords and local communities ensure that the high street lives on, in whatever guise that takes.

  7. I am not too sure if you are all aware that the White Rose Centre is in Morley?

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